Parasha Inspiration – Balak

וְהִנֵּ֡ה אִישׁ֩ מִבְּנֵ֨י יִשְׂרָאֵ֜ל בָּ֗א וַיַּקְרֵ֤ב אֶל־אֶחָיו֙ אֶת־הַמִּדְיָנִ֔ית לְעֵינֵ֣י משֶׁ֔ה וּלְעֵינֵ֖י כָּל־עֲדַ֣ת בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְהֵ֣מָּה בֹכִ֔ים פֶּ֖תַח אֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵֽד: וַיַּ֗רְא פִּֽינְחָס֙ בֶּן־אֶלְעָזָ֔ר בֶּן־אַֽהֲרֹ֖ן הַכֹּהֵ֑ן וַיָּ֨קָם֙ מִתּ֣וֹךְ הָֽעֵדָ֔ה וַיִּקַּ֥ח רֹ֖מַח בְּיָדֽוֹ: וַיָּבֹ֠א אַחַ֨ר אִֽישׁ־יִשְׂרָאֵ֜ל אֶל־הַקֻּבָּ֗ה וַיִּדְקֹר֙ אֶת־שְׁנֵיהֶ֔ם אֵ֚ת אִ֣ישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְאֶת־הָֽאִשָּׁ֖ה אֶל־קֳבָתָ֑הּ וַתֵּֽעָצַר֙ הַמַּגֵּפָ֔ה מֵעַ֖ל בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל:

Then an Israelite man came and brought the Midianite woman to his brethren, before the eyes of Moses and before the eyes of the entire congregation of the children of Israel, while they were weeping at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. Phinehas the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron the kohen saw this, arose from the congregation, and took a spear in his hand. He went after the Israelite man into the chamber and drove [it through] both of them; the Israelite man, and the woman through her stomach, and the plague ceased from the children of Israel.

Numbers 25:6-8

At the end of this week’s Torah portion is the story of Pinchas. With the conclusion of the Balak-Bilam incident, the children of Israel began to be seduced by the women of Moab. The result was the children of Israel were engaging in Avodah Zarah, Idol worship, with a popular god of Moab, Ba’al-Peor.

Moses had the judges of Israel execute the leaders (elders) of Israel who were engaging in this Idol worship. It is important to note that the judges and the leaders were two different groups of people. The leaders were the heads of clans, families and tribes, otherwise known as elders. The judges were those who had been imbued with some of the spirit of Moses, and were judging cases regarding Torah for the children of Israel. Throughout the history of the children of Israel, a problem existed with the leaders (elders) of Israel turning away from Hashem to engage in Idol worship.

The first step toward this Idol worship was the seduction of the men of Israel by the women of Moab. So, when Pinchas witnessed the flagrant action of the Israelite man engaging in sex with the Midianite woman in front of the entire congregation, Pinchas became enraged and ran them both through with a spear, thereby putting an end to the Idol worship. The righteous indignation of Pinchas was rewarded in next week’s Torah portion. Shabbat shalom.

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Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Steve was born on Lag B’Omer in Ann Arbor, MI but was raised in Gainesville, FL. The son of two University of Florida professors, he excelled in the sciences in school. In addition to his normal academic studies, he pursued his Jewish education studying with many Rabbis and professors of Judaic Studies from the University including visiting Rabbis such as Abraham Joshua Heschel and Shlomo Carlebach.